03/10/2016 | by Sarah Borchersen-Keto

Brick-and-mortar shopping represents a better sustainability performance compared to online shopping, according to a new white paper released by Simon Property Group (NYSE: SPG).

The study, conducted by Simon in conjunction with Deloitte Consulting, created a “cradle-to-grave” Lifecycle Analysis (LCA) that examines the environmental impact of all material, energy and fuels attributable to a product in its lifecycle.

The LCA assumes the consumer purchases the same basket of goods online as they would in a brick-and-mortar location. According to the LCA, every year online shopping has a 7 percent greater environmental impact versus brick-and-mortar shopping.

Some of the other main findings of the report include:

  • Customers travel to the mall in groups, which lowers the environmental impact per product bought;
  • Shoppers tend to return about 33 percent of products purchased online versus 7 percent for brick-and-mortar stores; and
  • Packaging used for the delivery of online orders has a greater overall environmental impact.

“In an age when consumers are increasingly demanding same-day or fast delivery, which requires more resources such as fuel to fulfill, the negative impact of online shopping is likely to worsen even more,” said Mona Benisi, senior director of sustainability at Simon.